In August 2013 Google released its latest major algorithm, ‘Hummingbird’ which unlike Panda and Penguin is a core algorithm control concerned with the intent of the surfer, rather than the structure of the website.
The last core algorithm update occurred in 2010 and was called ‘Caffeine’. The Caffeine web indexing method was established to provide fresher results to the surfer, making new content more valuable (due to relevancy) than aged content, regardless of how well it had previously performed in the SERPS. So, a blog, news story or forum posted higher and quicker as a result of the Caffeine update. Caffeine was possible because instead of searching the world wide web and then indexing the content Google was now indexing its own copy of the web, much like the way an index in a book works. As Google updates its own version very regularly in smaller pieces, overall it is a much more efficient tool, one that could deliver results quicker and support our hunger for new information.
Now, with Hummingbird, Google is striving for even greater relevance with its core mission, to understand the surfer’s intent, the reason why they searched for what they did. Previously keyword optimisation was the sole goal of an SEO team – getting the optimisation of keywords both on and offsite right to demonstrate relevance to a surfers keyword input. Hummingbird seeks to provide relevance based on the way the keywords are phrased, rather than just the fact that they appear, which means it has to handle extremely complex queries and develop an understanding of natural language.
Hummingbird also aims to deliver answers to questions within the SERPS. Try searching for ‘how old is Gary Barlow’ and you can see the answer to the question is contained within the search page without needing to click a website for the result. Try searching for ‘potatoes vs sweet potatoes’ and you can see a food property comparison of the two vegetables without needing to click away – this is all part of the knowledge graphs in the new Hummingbird update.
When you search for cinema listings you are first presented with a list of films and then when selecting a film you are presented with the film bio and then the times that film shows in all nearby cinema’s. We expect the Google knowledge graphs to include product comparisons in the not too distant future.
Hummingbird affects 90% of all searches so it is highly likely that since its introduction on the 20th August 2013 the SERPS look different to how they did before, with some website owners gaining and others losing. If your website positions are not what they were then you need to speak to an expert to find out what you need to change to get your traffic back.